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5 Ways to Quit Coffee and Boost Your Productivity

5 Ways to Quit Coffee and Boost Your Productivity

I haven’t drunk coffee regularly in over a year. I’ll occasionally use it to push through a crazy short term project, but in the long run, I think it’s a bad bet. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. It’s Addictive. When you drink coffee regularly, you start to get hooked on it. Waking up without it becomes harder and harder since your body relies on the caffeine to get itself going. You forget how to fully energize yourself without a stimulant.
  2. It’s a Panacea. People turn to coffee when they feel tired or out of it instead of analyzing what might be causing them to be tired and out of it. Maybe they’re not sleeping enough, or not eating well, but if they always just turn to coffee, they’ll never fix these problems.
  3. It’s a Bad Trade-Off. When we think of coffee we normally think of the “peak” that comes from the caffeine hitting our system and making us more productive. But we forget about the slump that comes with it. Because of the slump, you’re actually more productive if you don’t drink coffee. Most of the time, this is what happens when we have a significant amount of caffeine:

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Coffee-effects-graph

    If you want to regain your productivity by quitting coffee, how do you do it? Everyone drinks coffee for different reasons, and your reason might be different than simply “for the energy.” Take a look at the list below, see where you fit, and then adjust accordingly.

    The Break Taker

    Sometimes we go get coffee simply as a way to take a break from work. It’s the modern version of a smoke break. You have a legitimate reason to leave your desk for 5 minutes since you need to stock back up on coffee. If you find that you’re going to get coffee just because you need a break from work, try spending those 5 minutes talking to a friend or going for a walk in nature. Both of these options will give you the short break you need, and help you return to work just as refreshed and energized as if you’d gotten a cup of coffee.

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    The Yawner

    Maybe you need the caffeine because you’re too tired to get through the work day without it. You have a cup right when you wake up and then keep drinking it throughout the day to keep up your energy. If this is you, then you should try addressing the problem at its core. What’s making you so tired all day? The most likely cause is not getting enough sleep, so see if you can adjust your schedule to get at least 7 hours each night. Once you’re better rested you’ll be much more productive and won’t be as reliant on the caffeine to get through the day.

    The Connoisseur

    Maybe you just love coffee for the taste. There’s nothing wrong with that. Coffee has a very diverse array of blends, roasts, flavors, and beans. But maybe you’re appreciation for it goes too far sometimes and you end up more wired than you’d like to be. If this is you, then try tea! With all the different types of tea leaves and all of the different regions you can get tea from, it’s even more diverse than coffee. You can even develop an appreciation for the different styles of making it, just as you can develop an appreciation for operating a fine espresso machine.

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    The Scatterbrain

    Maybe energy isn’t your problem, but focus is. It could be that you start working fully energized and ready to seize the day, but then find yourself checking Facebook, Twitter, email, texts, the news, etc. The caffeine helps you to focus in on what you need to do and blocks out those other distractions. If this is you, then you probably have a high stress level and tend to give in to your impulses to check all of your different apps and websites. Instead of using caffeine, try meditation. It helps quell the voices in your head pushing you to procrastinate, and doesn’t leave you exhausted from a caffeine crash.

    The Addict

    Maybe you started drinking coffee for one of these other reasons… but now you can’t stop. You just don’t feel like yourself when you’re “pre-caffeinated,” and the day doesn’t start until you’ve had your first cup. If this is you, then your body has turned down its own internal energizers since it knows you’re going to pump it full of caffeine every morning. You’ve become chemically reliant on caffeine to be at full energy. The fix here has to be slow and steady. Try reducing your intake by just one cup a week, and then eventually switching over to tea or water. If you quit cold turkey, you’ll feel terrible for a few days and it might not be worth the struggle. Slow and steady wins the race.

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    Now that you know which category you fall into, all you have to do is slowly shift towards a better solution to the problem you’re having. Soon you’ll be much less reliant on coffee, be more productive, and even save some money in the process.

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    Nat Eliason

    Writer and Host of Nat Chat

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    Last Updated on April 23, 2019

    How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

    How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

    Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

    While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

    For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

    While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

    I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

    Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

    Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

    Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

    The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

    Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

    What Is a Stretch Goal?

    A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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    In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

    For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

    This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

    It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

    The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

    The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

    I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

    Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

    1. Get Outside of Your Head

    If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

    If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

    I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

    Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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    2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

    When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

    I see this in so many areas of life:

    When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

    In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

    “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

    Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

    3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

    When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

    The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

    For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

    We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

    From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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    When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

    Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

    4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

    S.M.A.R.T.

    is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

    While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

    Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

    For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

    By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

    5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

    I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

    The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

    When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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    One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

    Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

    I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

    A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

    As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

    From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

    The Bottom Line

    These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

    For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

    Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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